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When you leave your house on bike, you will have a helmet with you. That means whatever you decide is the best road bike helmet available, it’s going to see a lot of use and it’s worth careful consideration. Today’s helmet manufacturers try to cater to every need and provide an option. The question is, what do you need in a helmet?
Probably the first thing that comes to mind for most people is safety. That’s why we wear helmets so it makes sense to consider it. Thankfully though, every helmet sold will meet the standards required for the place it’s sold. We have a list dedicated to the best cheap bike helmets and we also have something for the best aero helmets, which tend to be a lot more expensive, but no matter the price point your helmet will have the protection you need.
This leaves you free to decide your helmet based on the type of riding you actually do. It has to be comfortable, but for some that will mean light and airy while others will prefer to aero optimise. Whatever makes sense to you, I’ve tried to include a standout item and maybe even two. There are options at different price points, and features that cater to different types of riders.
As you look through the options, you can feel secure that I’ve spent time assessing everything here. I looked at over thirty helmets and put them to the test for short rides, long rides, rides to the store, and rides through the backcountry. If you are looking for a new road bike helmet, keep reading to find the right options for you.
Best road bike helmets available today
Over the last few years, the best road bike helmets have started to split in the same way that wheels or frames have. There are climbers helmets and there are aero helmets. The Giro Aries Spherical Helmet falls into the climbers helmet category meaning it’s aimed at being lightweight and highly ventilated. It also means it’s a replacement of the highly regarded Giro Aether MIPS.
The Giro Aries Spherical takes the same idea of the previous design and turns up the volume. Like before, there are almost more vents than helmet and it falls to a set of transparent arches to hold it all together. Instead of putting the MIPS liner inside Giro uses the Spherical design.
MIPS Spherical allows two parts of the helmet to move against each other with no possibility of interrupting airflow, but the one problem this creates is that it takes a little extra push if you want to get the helmet higher on your brow. It’s not a big problem but it is noticeable.
As a final nod to cooling, there is extensive internal channelling to get the air right where it’s needed. Everything combined, Giro claims that the updated design improves cooling efficiency by 2.3%. That’s on top of 4% less aerodynamic drag, plus a Virginia Tech STAR value score of 8.40 making it the #1 ranked helmet tested at time of writing.
The Kask Protone Icon might be the definition of an all around helmet. It’s aero optimised but isn’t going to compete with the best aero helmets. It’s also lightweight, like the Giro Aries, but it’s not the lightest out there. What it does do incredibly well is keep you cool and comfortable and the style somehow seems to work as well on a road bike as it does on a gravel bike.
What really stands out though is the comfort. The padding is thick and cushy, and the strap is something of a Kask trademark. Instead of standard webbing under the chin, Kask uses a synthetic leather that feels like it disappears as soon as you get it in place. The same is true of the easy to adjust rear cradle. The big dial feels substantial and there is a ton of vertical adjustment that only requires a gentle push to get things where you want them.
The only thing that holds the Kask Protone Icon back is that there’s no Virginia Tech rating to cite. Kask chooses not to use MIPS and instead has a different way of testing rotational impact. Although it passes all the relevant certifications, the lack of a showing at Virginia Tech will always mean that one detail is unknown.
Any company who wants to make a highly ventilated helmet has to figure out how to get the material that keeps you safe out of the way. Giro uses transparent “bridges” in the Aries while Specialized takes a different approach by building an internal frame using woven aramid “cables.” The cables anchor into carbon fibre side panels and the whole system helps “distribute localised forces” in the event of an impact. The side effect is that the incredibly strong cables are thin and stay out of the way of airflow.
Completing the system of safety enhancements is MIPS Air Node. In practice, Air Node is as simple as a very specific padding design that “enables 10-15mm of relative movement between the energy-absorbing layer and the padding.” Honestly, it doesn’t look like it could possibly do that much but Virginia Tech has the Prevail 3 listed as the third best helmet the brand has tested.
Despite the low volume design, weight does seem to have added up a bit. The size small Prevail 3 I tested came in at about 10 grams over my copy of the Giro Aries. 10 grams is, admittedly, not much but the Giro is a larger size as well.
It’s important to understand that there is no definitive answer about how to make a safe helmet. Different brands have different strategies that aim to do the same thing. Lazer’s approach is to build blocks into the part of the EPS foam that sits closests to the cyclist’s head. During an impact the blocks break or compress to allow movement and absorb energy. The blocks also help with air movement as a bonus.
The name for this technology is Kineticore and Lazer offers it at a variety of price points. The flagship option is the Lazer Vento Kineticore that offers more Kineticore blocks, aero optimization, and an innovative way of tightening up the rear cradle. It’s a great helmet but I’ve chosen to highlight the Tonic Kineticore because of its incredible price.
For less than a third of the flagship product price you get a lightweight helmet that is stylish enough to work on a gravel or road ride but still uses Kineticore. You also give up features, though that is only a consideration if you miss them. One detail that’s changed for the worse though is the material used for the straps that’s now a lot heavier.
Be aware, the sizing runs big for Lazer. While many of the helmet brands say I’m a size small, it tends to be a choice between a tight small or a loose medium. With Lazer, if I follow the recommendation and go with size small, it feels perfect.
Specialized and Giro are two of the top contenders for every category that relates to helmets. Both brands make some of the best helmets on the market and I’ve already featured the climbers version of these helmets in other categories. For the aero category it ends up being too close to call so both the Giro Eclipse Spherical and the Specialized Evade 3 are worth considering if you want to maximise your aero performance on every ride.
A big consideration between the two is going to be fit. The Specialized size guide puts me in a small while Giro says a medium. Measuring the two helmets, the Giro is the same width even though the larger size medium is longer. That makes the Giro a better option for a long narrow head shape while Specialized has more room on the sides.
Other details do offer differences to consider as well. Giro uses the same Spherical ball and socket design in the Eclipse as they do in the Aries while Specialized uses the MIPS Node air system which is a special pad. If you like more vertical adjustability for the rear cradle that means Giro, but Specialized has more security for storing your sunglasses during a climb. If you are sensitive to weight, Giro is lighter but I have found there is a little tab at the front of the padding that will come apart over time.
Whatever choice you make, it’s a good one. Both helmets are aero optimised and both options score well on the Virginia Tech testing. They are also both plenty cool even on hot days as long as you are moving.
You can read more details in our Giro Eclipse Spherical review.
One of the basic tenets of an aero optimised helmet is that it’s hot. At least that’s what everyone believes. The reality is that modern aero helmets make use of exhaust ports to speed up the flow of air through a helmet by carefully managing the flow. Keep moving and a good aero helmet should never feel hot. Things change a bit when you stop moving though. As you, for example, climb a hill at slow speeds, there’s not enough air flow to evacuate heat. It’s in these situations that Swedish brand POC feels different.
The POC Ventral MIPS has big open vents in the front of the helmet. It’s almost more reminiscent of a climber’s helmet until you compare it. You do lose some of the ability to evacuate heat through the central part of the helmet but it feels like a reasonable compromise. You also get a choice of a ton of colours and special pads to manage your glasses during the hottest climbs.
Given all the positives, it’s a shame that there is no Virginia Tech score to report. POC is well known for being innovative when it comes to visibility and safety but as mentioned elsewhere, anytime the score is missing, it leaves a question. This is also a fairly heavy helmet so if that’s an issue for you, you’ll want to check one of the lighter options on the list.
For more details about this helmet, take a look at our POC Ventral SPIN review. The two helmets share everything except for a change to a version of MIPS that is incredibly close to the previous SPIN technology.
If you spend a lot of time in a bike helmet you can definitely feel the added weight against the muscles in your neck. If you’ve ever searched for a lightweight helmet, you’ve certainly encountered Limar. What you might not be expecting to see here in the best lightweight helmet category is an all out aero helmet. As I weighed helmets for this choice, many of the lightest were aero helmets. It seems that more venting requires more structure to hold the same standard of safety. EPS foam is light and with less venting brands are able to use more foam instead of a rigid secondary structure.
The Limar Air Speed MIPS is inherently an aero helmet so it will never be as cool as something with more vents. At speed though, it does a great job moving air through the helmet and keeping you as cool as possible. The buckle is a magnetic Fidlock design that makes it quick and easy to get in and out of and the y-junction below the ears is equally quick and easy to adjust. When it’s time to climb, the large outside vents will hold your glasses though they do lack a specific grip material like other brands.
It’s worth noting that the Lazer Tonic Kineticore is very close to the 235 grams that Limar quotes for size small. Limar is offering a more fully featured helmet and it’s for that reason that the two occupy different categories on this list. Still, you might find the Lazer is enough for you.
You can read more details in our Limar Air Speed helmet review.
Any helmet on our list will work with any kind of bike you want to use. That said, most riders prefer to match the gear they have with the type of riding they are doing. Some of that is about specific features but it’s okay that some of it is just about style. POC is obviously not ashamed to embrace that style element, and the POC Omne Ultra MIPS is unabashedly styled for gravel cycling.
The Omne Air MIPS is the starting point for the Omne Ultra MIPS. That means you start with a reasonable, though not quite budget, price. You also get the unobtrusive MIPS Integra rotational impact tech and a style that does a great job being adaptable for whatever bike you match it with. The POC Omne Ultra MIPS then adds a strip of Velcro in the back with a buckle and strap with attachment points. There’s also a POC patch attached with Velcro on one side and a bungee cord on the opposite side. If we are all honest, it’s unlikely that any of it will get used much but it doesn’t hurt and looks great matched with cargo bib shorts and tech tee.
Unfortunately, POC doesn’t seem to have submitted the latest version of the Omne Air, now with MIPS instead of SPIN, to Virginia Tech for testing. It also seems like the Omne Ultra MIPS would be the perfect helmet to have extra high-friction pads to keep sunglasses in place when stowed on the helmet.
Just like you don’t need a gravel specific helmet like the Omne Ultra, you don’t really need a special rain helmet. You could add a helmet cover to whatever helmet you like and it would work. For those who ride in the rain regularly though, the POC Ventral Tempus MIPS is going to be your new favourite option.
As with many of the POC helmets, the brand has taken a base helmet that’s great and built variations for specific uses. In this case the base helmet is the Ventral Air MIPS which is the lightweight climbers helmet in the POC lineup. Then, because of a somewhat obscure UCI rule, POC added a non-removable cover. The cover is super lightweight and barely there but it helps keep you a bit warmer and drier if you are going to be spending a lot of time in the rain. POC also changes the available colour options to enhance visibility and you will find an extra strip of reflective paint across the front and rear of the helmet.
Because the Ventral Air is the base helmet, the two designs are very similar. One of the things that means is that there still is no Virginia Tech testing to report. There is at least one new challenge that comes up with the Tempus version though and that is versatility. This is a very specialised helmet and it costs a lot. If you need it, you’ll be thankful, but there is a price to pay.
For more details about this helmet, take a look at our POC Ventral Tempus SPIN review. The two helmets share everything except for a change to a version of MIPS that is incredibly close to the previous SPIN technology.
There is a difference between budget and value. The Bontrager Circuit Wavecel is not the least expensive helmet out there and it’s not even the least expensive helmet on this list. This helmet offers a different kind of value though. If you just need one helmet that doesn’t cost much the Lazer Tonic Kineticore will fill that role. On the other hand, if you have a little more money to spend but want something that fills both recreational and commuting roles, that’s where the Bontrager shines.
The Bontrager Circuit Wavecel starts with a very capable all-around option. The weight isn’t the best but it’s reasonable. Wavecel technology is yet another way to handle energy dissipation and rotational impact, and it scores well with Virginia Tech. When things wear out, both the cradle and all the pads are replaceable. Those are all good features, but with the Circuit you also get magnetic mounts for lights. It might not be the cheapest, but you can use the Circuit Wavecel for gravel, road, and commuting duties. Just add or remove the lights as needed.
The only thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that Wavecel does limit access through the helmet. It’s a little less breezy, and you can’t scratch your head without removing the helmet.
Read more details in our Bontrager Circuit WaveCel Helmet review.